Every year as the snow begins to fall in Polson, the community is inevitably limited to few recreation opportunities – a stark change from the numerous summer activities available across the valley.
With the desire to provide more opportunities for Polson residents to enjoy the outdoors in the winter months, the city is set to provide groomed cross-country ski trails on Polson Bay Golf Course this year starting as soon as Polson receives at least 6 inches of snow.
This was made possible by collaboration between Polson City Parks and Recreation, Polson School District and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center.
“I noticed (Polson residents) have a lack of opportunity to do things in the winter, more specifically outside,” Polson Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz said.
As fall turned to winter, he pondered possible winter recreation opportunities that could be brought to Polson. Weltz and Providence Public Relations Director Rich Forbis put their heads together as they have many times before.
After brainstorming ideas, Weltz and Forbis thought the golf course would be a great place to have a Nordic track and presented the idea to Polson Parks and Recreation board.
As part of the community education budget for Polson School District, Weltz was prepared to provide the funding for the groomer, which is a large metal apparatus that is pulled by a vehicle, and Director of Parks and Recreation Pat Nowlen supported the idea.
“It’s a great opportunity to offer (cross-country skiing) and we hope it is popular,” Nowlen said.
By grooming the snow and establishing trails, Weltz explained that he hopes to make cross-country skiing more available to everyone.
Although some individuals already ski on the golf course, which has always been allowed, there are not any official trails making it a free-for-all. Weltz said that a trail system with strategically placed paths should provide a better experience for all, and will even help protect the golf course in turn making springtime maintenance easier.
As part of this collaboration, each party agreed to participate in different ways.
The City of Polson will store the groomer; provide a vehicle, most likely a snowmobile, to perform the grooming; and fund the ongoing maintenance required.
The school district has already purchased the groomer and will be hiring ski instructors to offer continuing education classes for both adults and children.
As far as Providence Medical Center is concerned, Forbis contributed greatly to forming the idea and putting a plan in action. He is not sure yet what the medical center’s role will be going forward, but is eager to stay involved.
“This is the start of it,” Forbis said. “The hospital is very interested being able to partner with the city and the school in the future and keep this operation growing.”
As this project moves forward, all three participating parties expressed interest in adding to it each year. Possible additions could include trail name signs, rules and regulation signs, more classes and possibly even ski rentals.
Now all that is left to put this project in motion and make it available to the citizens of Polson – snow. Nowlen said the city already has trails mapped out and is prepared to start grooming as soon as mother nature provides at least 6 inches of snow.
Reporter Whitney England may be reached at 758-4419 or firstname.lastname@example.org